Some of My Best Friends are at the Library

Older woman reading a book by the window on relaxing day with a cup of coffee.

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we all need a buddy in life—someone who gets you, who doesn’t judge, who supports and uplifts and maybe even makes you see a different perspective. I find those people every day at my local library. All the authors, performers, directors, characters—it’s truly a cocoon of lifelong friends and I am grateful!

I was volunteering at the York Public Library in Pennsylvania in 1993, sorting books for a book sale, when I realized I was surrounded by 100,000 of my favorite people—a veritable treasure trove! I entered graduate school the following fall to pursue a library career and I continue to meet new friends every day, all these decades later.

Who do you need in your life right now? Do you need a friend who can assure you you’re not alone? Do you need inspiration—someone to light the way? Do you need someone to understand your tears without judgment? Do you need somewhere to vent your despair about climate change? Do you need someone to help you laugh and see the lighter side? We have all these “friends” at the library. Let me introduce you to some of mine!

When I’m lonely: I love immersing myself in quirky villages like Jan Karon’s Mitford series and Jenny Colgan’s Mure series. Part of my heart is always longing for some nameless “home” and these books help me feel as though it might actually exist, and I belong there.

When I need inspiration: Biographies of all sorts—Elton John’s ME, In Such Good Company by Carol Burnett, Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald’s Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away by the fascinating entrepreneur who changed the way America eats and his philanthropic wife; and RBG, who changed the way justice is administered in the U.S.

Someone who understands my tears: Megan Devine, It’s Ok That You’re Not Ok and Maria Kliavkoff, Healthy Mourning, Happy Loving.

Someone who helps me with my climate change despair:  The Future Earth: A Radical Vision for What’s Possible in the Age of Warming by Eric Holthaus.

Someone who helps me laugh when the world is too much:  Allie Brosh for the win! Try her Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened. Or for all of us who’ve struggled with technology (who hasn’t?) there’s Damn You, Autocorrect! Awesomely Embarrassing Text Messages You Didn’t Mean to Send.

And then of course, there are absorbing mysteries, histories, and fantastical worlds to simply “take us away!”

We have all kinds of formats, too. You don’t have to like to “read” to take advantage—just push “play” and enjoy a wonderful audiobook story while your hands are busy with other things or you’re just trying to turn off your mind from fretting about the day. You can stream movies via Kanopy (like a free Netflix) or download music via Hoopla (like Pandora or Spotify).

And we have people to help! Come into your local branch library or call Ask KCLS at 425-462-9600.

Some of my best friends are at the library—I bet yours will be, too!

Wendy PenderContributor Wendy Pender coordinates programs for older adults throughout the King County Library System.

This article originally appeared in the August 2022 issue of AgeWise King County.

Seattle-King County Home to Two Library Systems

We are fortunate to have two public library systems serving residents in the greater Seattle area:

  • The King County Library System (KCLS) serves residents of King County. Headquartered in Issaquah, KCLS serves residents at 50 community libraries surrounding the city of Seattle as well as through a Mobile Services department.
  • The Seattle Public Library (SPL) system comprises 27 branch libraries, most of which are named after the neighborhoods in which they are located, the Central Library, and mobile services. SPL founded the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library, which it administered until July 2008. SPL has partnered with Age Friendly Seattle to produce in-person and online events since 2020.

If you live outside of King County, your area may be served citywide, countywide, or regionally (see map). All public library systems have a wealth of resources, including books, newspapers and other periodicals, digital entertainment, assistive technology, meeting spaces, special events, and business, employment, genealogy, and social justice resources. Look online for more information.